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Improving energy access in Nigeria

As a child in Nigeria, Chinasa Emeghara, LGO ’17, saw firsthand how difficult it is to live without reliable electricity. Today, she is addressing this global challenge directly by starting a solar energy company.

“[In Nigeria], businesses have to shut down at 4 p.m. because there’s no electricity, or they have to pay for generators, which are expensive and inefficient,” said Emeghara. “There were many occasions when I couldn't study after school because the lights were out.”

Emeghara moved to Texas when she was 10 years old and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She then spent four years as a consultant for Accenture working in the energy sector.

Drawn to MIT by her interest in operations, she enrolled in MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations, a dual-degree program offered by MIT Sloan and the MIT School of Engineering. Emeghara will earn both an MBA and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering.

Emeghara said entrepreneurship was not part of her original career plan, but MIT changed her thinking. “You meet the right people and start the conversation and the next thing you know you’re sitting on an idea that can have a lot of impact. A lot of that happens at MIT,” she said.

Emeghara discovered her entrepreneurship opportunity through Energy Ventures, a project-based course designed to help students launch new businesses in the energy sector. The class presented students with a range of project options, and Emeghara chose to address energy in Africa. She teamed up with Milton Jones, MBA ’16, and Onyeka Obasi, SF ’16, and together the three have been developing a business that would replace Nigeria’s diesel generators with solar electricity systems that are more technologically advanced than anything currently available there.

“We have contacts to key stakeholders in [Nigeria], and we have great technology here, so we’re trying to bring those together,” Emeghara said, noting that the team is focusing on developing a novel business model, rather than on new technology. “I want to create true energy access. There’s huge demand but not enough supply.”

Emeghara is also working on a reverse osmosis desalination project for Haiti in another class, Global Engineering. But while that project will wrap up at the end of the semester, Emeghara said she plans to continue the work started in Energy Ventures even after the class concludes. “I’m fully committed to seeing where this goes. I want to try to build this business,” she said.

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